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LinkedIn Groups: maximising your message

By Mikela Dennison

Over the past few months we have been seeing increasing interest from clients who are keen to learn more about LinkedIn Groups and how to leverage them for business growth and personal branding. There are currently over 1.5 million LinkedIn Groups - and that figure is growing daily.

This post will introduce and expand on some of the key elements and benefits of LinkedIn Groups, with some tips on how you and your business can use them to maximise your message and grow your network of prospective clients and contacts.

This is LinkedIn's description of Groups:

"LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts."

To my mind, the key points to consider in LinkedIn's description are: industry, interests, content, and the establishment of industry experts. For professionals looking to explore Groups and expand their knowledge and effectiveness in this area, it pays to keep in mind that Groups aren't a static webpage that you click once to join and then forget about (and if that is your plan of action, it may be time to reconsider your game plan).

Rather, LinkedIn Groups are member-driven, growing and organic collectives of business and creative professionals looking to share ideas, information, create and maximise opportunities and ultimately of course, get more business.

Research, research, research

Before you jump into a raft of different Groups, it is a good idea to do some research beforehand so you are joining the most relevant, useful Groups for you and your business. Think about your target client or sector (i.e. commercial property, residential real estate, financial services, education etc.), and then browse the Groups available to ascertain their value for your specific needs. For example, if you are looking to connect with potential clients in Auckland, a group based in the United Kingdom might not be of much use to you. For best practice on how to build real connections on LinkedIn, here is a useful list of tips to consider.

You can use a really helpful tool called Group Statistics (found on the right hand side of your LinkedIn page). This tool details information about the Group's members, from position and seniority, to location, growth of the group, and activity within it. I find this to be a useful way to learn more about a Group and to help me decide if I should join it or not. For example, if there are only five people in the group, and there has never been any discussion, I would look at a more active and popular group in the same sector.

Engaging with LinkedIn Groups

Sharing original content, helpful links, commenting and liking other people's posts within the group are the lifeblood of LinkedIn Groups. As a rule of thumb, the more you engage on LinkedIn and within Groups, the more value and benefit you create.

When you start out, take some time to see what other members in the Group are doing – are they sharing often, what kind of comments are made, what kind of content generates the most discussion. Once you have a good grasp of the fundamentals, you might start commenting on discussions and liking what other members share – this will start to boost your presence in a low risk way.

After you feel more comfortable and feel like you can add value through your own contribution, you might like to create an interesting, useful and well-targeted blog post or slideshow, upload it to your company website and then share a link with a thoughtful comment to your LinkedIn group – this is where the fun begins.

Other members might comment on your post, so you need to be responsive to feedback (and potentially critical statements). Thank people for commenting, ask questions, guide debate and address their comments to continue the discussion and position yourself as an industry expert or thought-leader. If you get a meaningful conversation started, you might even consider inviting other members to take the discussion offline and meet for a coffee – who knows how it could develop?

Here is a great post with seven tips to grow your audience through Groups, which I'd recommend you consider. For further reading, take a look at 15 more tips for getting the most out of Groups.

Quality and relevance of LinkedIn Groups

Think quality over quantity – it's better to join three relevant, targeted and useful Groups than to join ten Groups that you will never get any value from. Integrated Alliances offers a short and succinct post on a few reasons that Groups don't work - which is a helpful guide for how not to use the platform.

Being selective about the Groups you join is a good approach, because ultimately you will have to invest time engaging with the discussions and conversations within it, so if you haphazardly join ten Groups and then never utilise them, you've wasted an opportunity. You can join up to 50 LinkedIn Groups – although I'd be surprised to find anyone who is part of 50 Groups and is actively engaged in all of them!

Be aware that some Groups will be full of spammers and people who post promotional messages all the time without moderation – be wary of Groups that don't fulfil a specific purpose for you, because although a standard LinkedIn membership might be free of cost, the time that you invest is valuable, so be selective and targeted in your actions online to ensure you are getting the maximum return from your time investment. SalesForce offers a useful article on growing your business and generating leads from Groups, which you can check out here.

Why you might host your own LinkedIn group

Once you have invested some time to learn the ins and outs of Groups, and you have a good understanding of how they operate and how you can be most effective in the space, you might consider taking the next step and hosting your own Group.

Here is a helpful resource for any readers thinking about starting up a Group – from the roles within a Group (the Administrator and Moderator are both key), to creating a specific name for the Group, and how you can attract more members, there is a wealth of information that can help you if you are looking to establish a niche LinkedIn Group yourself. The Social Media Examiner also offers a useful guide to managing Groups, which you can check out here.

Next steps

So are you feeling ready to delve into Groups? Take your approach in small steps before diving in completely, and you will soon see the value in this professional networking, industry and thought-leadership gold mine.

You can take active steps to shape the message around your brand by engaging in targeted LinkedIn Groups and sharing information and content that will be of value to your ideal customer or client. You can even shape the message through the posts and articles you comment on – always consider how you want to come across to other members and prospective clients.

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn Groups, Business 2 Community has curated a list of 26 resources to use if you want to explore different avenues of the platform.

Do you have any other suggestions or tips for how you gain maximum value out of LinkedIn Groups? Leave a comment below or just shout out on LinkedIn to continue the discussion.